It’s been almost three decades since RoboCop burst onto our screens, in a deluge of gloriously over the top violence, political satire and a look ahead at a future that it turns out wasn’t a million miles away from the world we inhabit today. As with all pop culture idols, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood decided it was time for a makeover.
Set in the not so distant future, the movie sees robots replacing soldiers on the battlefield, and media pundits questioning whether or not the American people are ready to welcome these mech warriors onto their own streets to deal with the crime rate. It seems the American public are against this idea, which is costing the manufacturers a fortune, so they decide to put a man inside one of the machines as a PR exercise. Detective Alex Murphy, critically wounded in an explosion, becomes their candidate for the first RoboCop.
Director Jose Padilha intersperses thought-provoking ethical debate with fanboy-pleasing bursts of action, including the obligatory stand off with the iconic ED-209 enforcement droid. The computer-generated effects come thick and fast, yet happily – and appropriately – they never overwhelm the performances. Kinneman does a fine job filling the metal boots of Peter Weller, and Oldman’s conscience stricken inventor proves to be Kinneman’s guide when it comes time for the hero to figure out his own balance between man and machine.
Gone is the ultra violent action and the iconic silver robosuit, both getting the 21st century update thanks to slick CGI, but much of what made the first film work was down to a darkly intelligent script that took a look at corporate America and made the real bad guy the ever growing power of multinational companies and the sway they hold over law makers. Thankfully this aspect of the reboot lives up to the original and there’s enough subversive with to ensure this is a movie with plenty of potential for the world of RoboCop to be explored further.
While it was always going to draw comparisons with the original, the people who will benefit most from this movie are the ones who’ve never seen Verhoeven’s version. RoboCop deserves to be judged on it’s own merits and there’s enough here to hold your interest, entertain and pose a few questions of it’s own. While it probably isn’t destined for the same level of affection as the original, Robocop hits enough of its targets draw you back for more.
(Images courtesy Collider, Empire, IMDb)